Last Epiphany Year C 2022
O God, who before the passion of your only begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
God of timelessness,
From chaos and disorder
you brought forth the beauty of creation;
From the chaos of war and violence
Bring forth the beauty of peace.
God of compassion
You saw the humanity of the outcast and the stranger;
Help us to see the evils of our hatreds and suspicions
and to turn them into the embrace of your Beloved Community.
God of peace,
Through your love on the cross
You overcame the power of violence and death;
Turn us away from the love of power
That we may transform a warring world
through the power of your love. Amen.
Letting Go and Holding on.
We live in a world where we seem to be holding on by a thread sometimes and at the same time we have to continuously be letting go.
In the past 2 years we have let go of plans, of expectations and even desires. We have had to learn to hold onto different traditions. Rather than graduations in person we have had to refocus on the significance of the act of graduation, the hard work and perseverance through an epidemic, the appreciation of the accomplishment rather than holding onto the pomp and circumstance as the meaningful event.
We have had to let go of quite a bit and yet we hold on.
We have found the footholds for each day, where we can hold on and what is indeed worth holding onto.
We live in a world steeped in tradition.
Think for a moment- what things are you holding onto that make your heart sing? What things are you holding onto that give you deep gladness?
What things are you holding onto that give you comfort but not assuredness?
What things are you holding onto so tightly that you cannot see the abundance that exists around you?
Moses today goes up the mountain and speaks with God.
In the midst of the madness of wandering in the wilderness (not building homes, no stability, no beautiful adornments),
In the midst of the constant uncertainty (will that manna really show up tomorrow?),
In the midst of vulnerability (the grief, the anger, the isolation yet community),
In the midst of change and dreams deferred (what year will we get there? Not this year? When?),
In the midst of all of these questions, Moses lets go of his flock.
He left his brother Aaron in charge, and he held onto what he knew would not abandon him.
He held onto the one who called him.
He held onto the faith in the fact that God would be present with him and he took one step at a time and went up the mountain.
When Moses returned his face was shining, fully shining with the presence of God.
IN letting go, he held onto the one sure thing, the constancy of God, the love of God, the assurance that God would be right there with him in the midst of all of the things that had to be let go of, God was not going to let go of Moses and his people.
Jesus, today is also inviting his disciples to step away, to let go of the community, to go up to the mountain and pray.
Go up and be present. Go up and listen deeply.
Peter, James, and John go up and in letting go of the community,
they are weighed down by sleep.
In letting go, they can truly, deeply feel the exhaustion of holding onto the worry, the weight of compassion, the fatigue of walking with Jesus.
Sleep weighs them down, perhaps, because they feel like they can finally let go.
And yet, Jesus wants more from them.
He invites them away to refresh their souls not through sleep but through experience.
Jesus, too, is transfigured.
Jesus, too, shines up on that mountain top. Elijah and Moses are there with him, speaking to him and Peter, James and John might have thought in their exhaustion that they were hallucinating or perhaps not thinking correctly.
Giving up their hopes and expectations of what that hike up the mountain was intended for, they are able to hold onto the unimaginable, the dose of divine, the newest version of God’s surprising nature to astound.
Peter, with a burst of boundless energy has shaken off the mantle of exhaustion and now wants to hold onto the moment, to clutch the space and not leave. To hallow the ground, create a shrine, place a plaque, and memorialize the experience.
Let’s think about this theme….. it’s not a horrible one.
Peter’s heart is in the right space. It’s tradition…..
All through the Old Testament, naming a space and remembering the encounter with the divine is what people did. Jacob named places for the divine encounters in his life. Abraham did also. You remembered the space.
And here Jesus says, let go of that notion.
I am with you wherever you go and NOW we are to keep going.
Hold onto me in your heart and let’s keep walking. We are needed down the mountain at a time like this.
Peter, tradition is changing.
Peter, our time is short, we have work to do.
Peter, let go of that notion of memorializing this here and now in that old way.
Jesus is constantly redefining what we are to hold onto and let go of.
Think of the hemorrhagic woman who holds onto his prayer shawl, he says let go…let go of all that ails you.
Think of Mary at the Tomb, when she realizes it is Jesus, she wants to hold onto him and stay in that space.
And Jesus over and over again is saying, you have to let go of the way things were done and we are here together to do a new thing, to be a new people, to let go and hold onto the new understanding of the divine within each of you in this space, now.
Jesus denies Peter’s desire to stay in one space, he compels him to realize that the divine is wherever they are. The divine compels one to keep moving and to fully be present to those around them. Giving hope, giving something deeper and more meaningful to hold onto.
And these words ring out “This is my only Son.”
Words we heard when Abraham hiked up the mountain with Isaac. My only son.
Words we heard from the clouds at Jesus’ baptism.
Words we heard again from the clouds today up on the mountain.
Words we hear from the man in the crowd, at the bottom of the mountain shouting. “My only son.”
Words of pleading, words of affirmation, words desiring healing.
Words spoken with hope.
Words spoken deep to the core of our being.
Words clinging, holding onto the hope that God can change the outcome.
And Jesus shows the disciples- your faith- holding onto God’s love, transforms.
Your face, too, shall shine.
Your image, too, transfigured.
Holding onto the love certainty of God’s love in uncertainty lets you let go of the superficial band-aids we place upon the hurts of this world, and gives each of the strength and courage to not be defeated in a world where the madness of the wilderness, of dreams deferred, of division and violence seem to persist and even appear to prevail.
Moses never entered the promise land AND he also never gave up leading or hope.
He kept on, he never let go of the dream rooted in God’s Call.
Jesus invited the disciples to transfigure their own dreams, to shine with mobility and reconcile the “only”s with a healing that only God can create.
We were holding our breath last week holding onto hope that …… you fill in the blank. That your child got into the right school, that Doak would or would not get the funding it desired, that Russia would not invade the Ukraine, that bills would pass or not pass……
That each beloved child of God might experience the beloved fullness of God’s love.
And this week, we, as we always do, hold fast the knowledge that in each moment where there is pain and division we are to strive to rebuild the kingdom of God.
We are not to grow weary.
We can’t cling to “back when,” INSTEAD we are invited into the messiness each day and are assured that even when exhaustion weighs us down, that God is inviting us to hold on and keep being healers.
Each person’s only child requires this love from us.
And in so doing, the love of God will shine in each of us, giving hope, and changing one little moment from glory into glory… a little bit of that divine to stop us in our tracks and invite us in the messiness, in community, into the work at hand.
Letting Go AND Holding on is the story of God’s people.
Peter, James, John, YOU— let’s let go of our illusions of God’s kingdom and listen more deeply to certainty of the power of the divine interrupting into our midst creating healing even in the midst of deeeeeeep division.
God’s love has the power to transform each of our deepest divisions and in the darkest of times to bring about the deep peace of God’s kingdom here on earth. We, like Peter, James and John are called into that work daily.
Aon Wednesday we will begin the Holy Season of Lent- I invite you this year: Let go of your fear, exhaustion, anxiety.
Hold onto Jesus’ hand and let’s keep working in this messy world.